Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Gunning for Gold: Northlake Shooting Sports fosters Olympic dreams

With the Paris Summer Olympics right around the corner, athletes all over the world are gearing up for what may well be their only shot at glory.

Tracks, fields, courts, pools, gymnasiums and ranges all over the planet are allowing the crème de la crème of every sport the opportunity to hone their crafts to compete with the best that the world has to offer.

One sport that always produces its fair share of American Olympic medalists is shooting, where the United States captured six medals (3 gold, 2 silver and a bronze) in Tokyo in 2021.

One of the ranges that has produced its fair share of elite-level shooters, including Olympic champions, is Northlake Shooting Sports in southern Denton County.

Range owner Jeff Pray lives in Bartonville and grew up with a father who was an avid gun collector, hunter, and competitive shooter.

Pray, 64, said he thinks it is a combination of factors in the southern Denton County region that has allowed Northlake Shooting Sports to cultivate and host such great shooting talent.

“The weather is suitable for year-round practice,” Pray said. “The high school sports scene is extremely competitive, and the families are involved and supportive of their kids here. We host 500 to 600 kids a week, and the parents are here supporting them.

“We have fostered an environment where the teams support each other. It is really rewarding to watch shoot-offs in tournaments where they cheer each other on.”

And that was the idea all along.

Northlake Shooting Sports was originally founded as a non-profit organization to help local high school teams with a place to practice.

It offers a shooting range for all shotgun sports including trap, skeet, five stand, and sporting clays.

The range’s elite reputation was recently enhanced when four-time Olympian Vincent Hancock, who has won three gold medals, joined as a partner of Northlake Shooting Sports in April 2022.

“Since then, Vincent has brought over Austyn Smith and Conner Prince for training,” Pray said. “Those are three of the four US Olympic team members. This will be Vincent’s fifth Olympics, and he will be competing to add two medals to his collection. Mixed Team has been added this year, so he and Austyn will be competing together for that medal. We have an Olympic Skeet Field set for these athletes. We also have several other Olympic hopefuls from around the world that come and train here.”

Two other athletes who had the opportunity to compete together are recent alums, Brett Pray (Jeff’s son) and Peyton Seay, who were both on the Lindenwood College team this past school year, which won the ACUI-SCTP Collegiate Clay Target Championships in March.

Pray said he is overwhelmed at times by the amount of shooting talent that passes through North Texas Shooting Sports on a regular basis.

“I get goosebumps when I see the fields full of these athletes six days a week,” Pray said. “These are all great kids, and we enjoy providing the experience for them. Vincent’s two girls will be joining the newly reorganized Argyle team and Brett is home for the summer, so we will be some proud parents!”

Northlake Shooting also recently signed a corporate sponsorship agreement with Beretta USA and has a number of new features on the horizon.

“Their support will help us to continue to grow,” Pray said. “It seems impossible that we opened our first sporting clay course in January of 2023. We open our third course in March 2025. Upcoming improvements include adding a sixth trap/skeet field, adding lighting to the trap and skeet fields, installing a bunker for Olympic Trap, a new pavilion, and additional sporting clay stations.”

Northlake Shooting Sports is located in the DFW Adventure Park and all of its shooting stations feature remote-controlled target throwers that are easy to operate.

Visit northlakeshootingsports.com for more information.

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